26 CLASSICS: A Tale of Two Cities #8

Title: A Tale of Two Cities 
Author: Charles Dickens
Genre: Classics

*Spoilers in white. Highlight to read.*

BlurbAfter eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Me: An attempt for extra credit in my English class turned out to be an emotional, turbulent, searing read.

The Ups: Well, Charles Dickens, I have got to hand it to you. You are indeed the master storyteller. The characters are really what bring the plot to life. What I feel like is really special about the characters is that most of them aren't necessarily incredibly complex (except Sydney Carton, Dr. Manette) but rather embody pure, raw characters. Lucie Manette is the embodiment of human goodness in a woman and is often referred to as an angel. Charles Darnay, her husband, is polite, intelligent, well-spoken, and faithful, a good man. Madame Defarge seems to me the entire revolution in a human being. Mr. Lorry a kind man devoted to his work.

If you told me to analyze and develop a whole, complete, complex analysis of any of these characters, I would probably find some difficulty. Only Sydney stands out in my mind as a real person, whose self-contempt and tendency to keep his emotions inside make him much more than what meets the eye. Although the story may have only shown simplified aspects of the Revolution, I feel like these characters really added all the different emotions, virtues, social standings, and points of view that were necessary to tell a whole story. 

The most amazing thing is how these stories weave together near the end. Every character I lightly discarded from my brain came back to haunt me, and I had so many "Oh my god!" moments near the end, when everything starts to fall into place. So, SPOILER ALERT: I had so many emotions at the end. First of all, Madame Defarge. How I hated that woman. How I was terrified yet was fascinated by her undying certainty that everything was for the people. No act of cruelty was cruel enough for the woman if it was done in the name of the Republic. Sydney Carton. Oh how I loved him. Dickens left me with the hope that perhaps he was going to a better place for him. That his fate was what was right. 

Okay. Finally, I think the most interesting commentary made in this novel is that humans will make the same mistakes again. Cruelty came from both sides, the aristocrats, the revolutionaries. Neither side was truly good. And that is the complexity. 
“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” 

The Downs: Only a few. The beginning was definitely slow to pick up, and I know a lot of people give up on this book because of it. But stick with it. It's worth it, I promise.

I wish I had taken a Euro History course or a government course before I had read this, because I think it would have provided a whole new level of insight and understanding. But there's always rereads!

Rating: 5 kisses!

Have you read any Dickens? What did you think?

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